Nature Journaling Ecosystem Change with Robin Carlson

Do you have the consistency to go to the same place again and again and observe how it changes?  What will you notice as you watch a place change over time?  Let Robin Carlson inspire you – she has been nature journaling ecosystem change at Stebbins Cold Canyon, a place that has been twice burned by wildfires in recent years.

Robin Carlson journal page 1

A Landscape Affected by Wildfire

In this interview with Marley, Robin Carlson talks about how she began this longterm project of observing and documenting Stebbins Cold Canyon and how this area responds to wildfire.  Robin notes that she has always been interested in the time component of life; previously she studied developmental and evolutionary biology.  Though she had never experienced wildfire directly before, she wanted to see the rapid changes wildfire causes.  She chose to begin visiting Stebbins Cold Canyon at least once a month because it is close to where she lives.

Stebbins Cold Canyon has burned twice in recent years – once in 2015, and again in 2020.  At the end of the 5 year gap and just before the second burn, Robin had noticed that things had begun to slow down in terns of ecosystem change, though change never really stops.  Robin notes that even “staying the same” requires an active process:

“Things have to work to stay the same.”

Robin Carlson journal spread

What kinds of tools do we use When nature journaling ecosystem change?

In terms of physical tools, Robin’s preferred supplies are her Kuretake brush pen (with permanent black ink) and Pentel brush pen (with permanent grey ink) to use for shadows.  She finds them useful for both quick sketches and for building more complex illustrations.  Robin has a strong belief that the initial sketch she makes is the most important, because it has the rawest and most complete impressions in them.

In terms of mental tools, it comes down to observation skills, consistency, and – adding those two together – experience.

Robin’s goal was (and still is) to get to know a specific place – to get to know the plants, animals, fungi who grow there on a deeper level.  As such, when she began her longterm exploration, her questions were a lot more general:

“What does it look like?  What questions does this generate?  What am I seeing?”  

Her questions became more targeted over time; now she notices which trees might have died or which have been regrowing, and where the regrowth has been happening.

Robin Carlson journal2

What changes and what stays the same?

Robin has noticed that green regrowth comes up almost immediately after a wildfire.  This leads her to believe there must be a LOT more water in the ecosystem than it would appear, even during summer droughts.  Perhaps there are water sources hidden in the burls, in the roots, stored in the materials of the plants both above and below ground, and deeper in the soil.

The creek had just enough water in it that it did not burn, and this was readily apparent by the flowers that continued to bloom there.  The hummingbirds in particular were quite happy.  Speaking of flowers, in other parts of the canyon, Robin noticed a species called “whispering bells”.  To Robin’s knowledge, this wildflower had not bloomed in those parts in over 30 years.  Perhaps the seeds had lain dormant in the seedbank until the fires activated them, or perhaps it was some other process that led to their resurgence.

An onsite sign and a donation collections jar stayed the same and did not burn away, though the sign needed a new post.

Some trees died and stayed dead, while others resprouted from the most unlikeliest of places.  Bees returned.

You might imagine it would get boring to return to the same place again and again – but Robin assures that she has NOT gotten bored nor run out of things to observe.  No matter how much change might appear to slow down, it still looks like a new world to her each time she goes.


To learn more about Robin Carlson, please visit her website:

To learn about another wildfire nature journaler (one who inspired Robin!), check out Marley’s interview with Miriam Morrill here.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Nature Journal Shopping List 2021

Its time for my nature journal shopping list for 2021! Whether you are buying a gift for a nature journaling friend or for yourself this list will help you. There are also some discount codes below, so don’t miss those. Watch the video for details about each gift.

You know how I feel about art supplies and nature journaling supplies. I am all about the results. I am focused on unleashing my nature journaling potential (and yours.) In addition I am very careful about the ways we can distract ourselves or direct our energy into consumerism instead of nature journaling. Because of that I have focused on the products that make great gifts but also have the potential to be game-changers. One gift can literally change someone’s life if it can get them hooked on nature journaling or take their nature journaling to the next level.

Below you will find great nature journal gifts for

– your nature journaling buddy
– yourself
-ostensibly for your spouse but actually for you
-a young person in your family that you want to motivate to nature journal
-for the nature journaler that has everything

You can also subtly share this list with your parents, spouse, and family so they know what to get you.

Marley’s Official Nature Journaling Shopping List

Stocking Stuffers:
Pilot Futayaku Gray and Black Brush pen:
Pentel Waterbrush Large:
Fude Demanen Fountain Pen:
Tombow Brush Pen Pale Gray:
Pentel Pigment Brush Pen https:
Pentel Aquash Gray Ink https:
Pilot Precise V5 (water soluble) Black Ink:
Presto Jumbo Correction Pen:
Uni-ball Signo White Gel Pen:
John Muir Laws Owl Stickers:
Pentel Twist-Erase Click Mechanical Pencil:
Medium Binder Clips Box of 12 (you only need 4):

My Sketchbook:
My sketchbook in 7X10”:
Nova Series Tricolor Sketchbook, cool grey toned paper, 7×10”

Complete Nature Journaling Kits
Use discount code: (NJSHOWLOVE)
Use discount code: (MarleyHoliday15)

Nature Journal Bags
His bag $75:
John Muir Laws lots of free resources such as printouts, journal inserts, worksheets, posters, ID guides, and full curricula
Watercolor Palette:

Naturalist Supplies
Close Focus Binoculars:
Xenvo Macro lens, led and wideangle lens for smart phone $45:
Microscope with phone attachment $20:
Magnifying glass $7.99:
UV light:

Hats, Chairs, Water, and Chocolate
Shelta Hat:
Sun Gloves:
Small Folding Stool:
Collapsible water bottle:
Probiotic Chocolate smalls:
Alter Eco Variety Pack:
Alter Eco Truffles:

Watercolor and Gouache
Holbein Gouache 24 set
Holbein Primary Mixing Kit:
Ceramic palette for color mixing
Airtight palette for storing Gouache:
Winsor and Newton Compact Set:
Watercolor Palette:

Ultimate Gift
Party with the BeetleLady:

Some of the above links are affiliate links so I will get a small percentage with no extra cost to you.


#InktoberNatureJournal (Final Week!)

You have made it to the final stretch of inktobernaturejournal! This month-long challenge is almost over! Right now, I will go over the last week of prompts for #inktobernaturejournal.

Day 23: Animal Eyes

nature journal page showing studies of toad eyes using ink and watercolorEyes are the window into the soul. Are you afraid to draw them? If so, then this is a perfect opportunity to practice. There is a lot that we can learn from looking at different animal eyes.


Day 24: Abiotic Nature
a nature journal page depicting abiotic nature which means non-biological, non-living aspects of nature in this case waves and a beach interacting
Here is a page where I used gray ink and watercolor to nature journal an abiotic phenomena at the beach.

If you scan the Nature Journal Club Facebook Page you will see that most of the subject matter on people’s pages is plant or animals. However, many aspects of nature are not living creatures. In fact most of nature is “abiotic” meaning it is not life-based. Atoms, physics, most rocks, water, erosion, weather, the movement of the sun, the formation of crystals etc are all examples of abiotic nature. We need to practice including these more often. The way steam swirls off your coffee is abiotic nature you could be nature journaling!

Day 25: Metamorphosis

This prompt gives you room for some creative exploration. How do you want to interpret this prompt?

Day 26: Birds in Flight

Did you learn how to draw a flying bird when you were a kid? Usually birds

on this nature journal page you can see ink sketches of birds in flight next to a landscape drawing
Here you can see some quick captures of birds in flight I did while drawing a landscape. I always try to draw birds I see in flight, especially the ones in weird positions that seem hard to draw.

don’t make it that easy. However, it is still worth practicing trying to draw them. Especially when they are in unusual angles causing foreshortening. It is often fun to have a side column of these quick bird sketches on your page while you are working on something more stationary like a landscapito or plant.

Day 27: Nature Journal a Pet

Have you ever nature journaled a pet? Similar to abiotic nature, “domesticated” nature rarely gets nature journaled. I wonder why? There are many benefits to nature journaling your pets. So many that I have made several videos about it with top tips.

Here is another video that could inspire you to nature journal your pet (reptile) or you could just nature journal one of the ones in the video!

 Day 28: Flock, School, Herd

Drawing groups of animals is

nature journal page showing a school of fish drawn with ink and watercolor from life at the aquarium of the california academy of sciences
Despite intentionally trying to draw the overlapping fish and the foreshortened fish that my brain wanted to filter out I still ended up with a lot of spaced out fish…

hard. Our brain tends to separate out the individuals and we often “over-pattern” the distribution of the animals skipping the overlapping parts. Have you ever noticed yourself doing this? My schools of fish and herds of wildebeest often end up spaced out evenly! Good time to practice your metacognition and intentionally try to capture what you actually see. The more you practice the better you will get.

Day 29: Creative Lettering

Lettering is an important part of nature journaling. Every once in a while it is good to experiment with some lettering techniques that could add some interest and visual hierarchy to your pages. Ink is great for lettering. However, it is often worth spacing out your letters and planning the fit before going to the ink tool! Otherwise you might end up with squished letters.

Day 30: Something you are Scared to Draw!
photos and nature journal page showing a leopard shark drawin with ink
I was afraid to nature journal this shark while fishing with my friend. Mostly because I have not nature journaled much while fishing and everything happens fast while fishing. It was a challenging subject but I’m glad I pushed through it.

What is something you are scared to draw? Not necessarily something you are fearful of in itself but something you are hesitant about drawing or nature journaling. Maybe you are comfortable with plants and landscapes but still afraid of animals. Perhaps you are fine with birds but mammals are hard. Maybe it is moving animals of any kind. Perhaps you are scared to draw people into your pages. Today, you will try to incorporate those onto a page. I did a whole video about fearless nature journaling you can check out here.

Last Day: Nature Journal in Your Kitchen

Have you ever nature journaled in your kitchen before? Why not? There is a lot of nature in your kitchen and even more importantly it is nature that is accessible and very connected to you. Nature journaling a recipe or a process or a shopping list can be a great way to build your skills too! The holidays are coming and incorporating a little nature journaling into your kitchen is a great way to introduce some of the muggles in your family to the magic of nature journaling and maybe even convert them. Check out this video where I do a nature journal safari in my fridge!

If you nature journaled every day in October you deserve an ice cream! Use the hashtag # inktobernaturejournal to share your posts on social media.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not


#InktoberNatureJournal (Week Three)

Can you believe it is already week three of #inktobernaturejournal? It’s true, I have gotten the weeks mixed up a little. However, the important thing is doing a little bit every day. The important thing is to build a habit that allows for you to cumulatively unlock your potential. Let’s jump into the prompts!

Day 16: Carnivorous Plant

Have you ever nature journaled a carnivorous plant before? If so, this will still be an opportunity for fun. If not, then you are in for an adventure. You might want to do some research to see if there are any near you. Remember, many botanical gardens, zoos, or garden stores could have them. However, if you are not able to find any in real life you will have to do some online research. I highly recommend California Carnivores for their content. You might decide to buy one…a carnivorous plant is a great option for nature journaling at home. California Carnivores also has an instagram with tons of images of carnivorous plants. Be sure to give them credit on your nature journal page if you use one of their images.

an example of a carnivorous plant nature journal page forinktober nature journal
I nature journaled carnivorous plants in situ on a recent trip to Vermont. They grow in bogs and fens on much of the east coast and southern US.
Day 17: Use an Ink Tool You Suck at…

If you have seen my mindset videos then you know that I am kidding about that phrase. What I mean is an ink tool you aren’t used to. What is the ink tool you are least comfortable with? Try drawing with that. Watch me struggle with the ones I suck at.

Day 18: Subterranean

Things that live underground go unnoticed. But nature journaling is about noticing things!!! If we never nature journal subterranean things then we are missing out on a lot. How can you use your nature journal to discover this world beneath your feet? What unique visual techniques can nature journaling deploy in this department?

Day 19: Nearby Nature Map
Here is an example of a simple map in my nature journal that I made showing where I was finding coyote tracks in a nearby park.

What is your nearby nature? This is a powerful concept that Heather Crellin introduced me to when I interviewed her about being a beginner nature journaler.   For today’s exercise we are going to use our ink tools to do some mapping of our local nature. It could be a 3 minute diagram with triangles for houses and stick figure trees. The important thing is to practice this powerful but underutilized drawing tool. Maybe we will get in the habit of using maps on our pages more often.

Day 20: Skyscapito

How will you draw the sky with black ink? That will be your challenge today. Remember to keep it small otherwise it is not a a skyscapito.

Day 21: Water Soluble Ink

Have you ever played with water soluble ink? It sucks when you don’t want it but it can be fun when you do. It can be great for drawing tracks or anything where you want to be able to create gradual tones. I used it as one of my ink tools for the drawing tracks prompt last week. I prefer the pilot precise pens and a Pentel Waterbrush Large. (these are affiliate links so I will get a small percentage if you buy using these links)

Here is an example of the effect you can get using water soluble Pilot pens and a waterbrush. In addition to bold line work and writing you can also get subtle gradations of value with the ink wash. This is a diagram I did while brainstorming a habitat restoration project in a wetland restoration project.
Day 22: Fall Leaves with Ink and Color

If you live in the northern hemisphere then the leaves on your trees should be changing color this time of year. Leaves are a perfect nature journaling subject for beginners or advanced nature journalers. And yes, it is possible to combine ink with color. I will probably use watercolor for this prompt but feel free to combine ink with the color media of your choice.

Stay tuned for next weeks #inktobernaturejournal prompts!

inktober nature journal

East Bay Nature Journal Club with Erica Stephens

Erica Stephens is a Naturalist, Nature Journaler, Educator and the founder of Naturalist Nest and the East Bay Nature Journal Club! In this LIVE show we discussed the East Bay Regional Parks where she works, other national parks where she has nature journaled, nature journaling the Jurassic, and how she got started with nature journaling. Erica was also one of the teachers at the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference where she taught a class on nature journaling the Jurassic!

East Bay Nature Journal Club

The East Bay is the most populous area in the San Francisco Bay area. It also contains some fascinating nature and a lot of biodiversity. Sounds like a great combination for a thriving nature journal club. Do you live in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Concord, Emeryville, Fremont, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon or Walnut Creek? If so, this nature journal club that Erica has started will have meetups in your area. The best place to stay informed about this group and join one of their outings is by visiting their facebook group.  If you are not on facebook you can contact Erica directly through her website and see her calendar of events

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

#InktoberNatureJournal (Week Two)

Here are the prompts for #inktobernaturejournal week two! Remember, the most important thing is to do a little bit every day. Even if you can only squeeze in a 3 minute entry before sleep. That counts!

Day 8: Five Blind Contour Drawings of Bones

Blind contour drawings and bones are a great match. What is a blind contour drawing? It is a great exercise that improves a number of drawing skills. You draw a subject without looking at your drawing and usually without lifting your pen from paper. First, set up your bones far enough away from your drawing where you can not see them. Next, put your pen down and start drawing. Finally, remember that a blind contour should be fast. There is not much use in adding details since you don’t know where you are.

A nature journal page for #inktobernaturejournal showing blind contour drawings of bones and notes and questions.
Look at how I use questions for my thought process and to add more to my page.

What are some aspects of your blind contour that you like? How can you apply these to your regular drawings? What can you learn here?

Day 9: Poisonous or Venomous?

Despite the way most people use these words there is indeed a difference. On the other end of the spectrum from how these words are commonly interchangeable there are people who are sticklers about these words always being used correctly. For #inktobernaturejournal we are less concerned about correctness. In fact, we are not even that concerned with pretty pictures. Instead we are focused on consistency and getting an entry for every day of this challenge! This prompt allows you to do some research, be creative in your interpretation. Maybe there is something in your garden or under your sink that matches the prompt? A “joint comparison” could be a good nature journal technique to employ here?

Day 10: Nocturnal Nature Journaling

Did you know that nature doesn’t stop at night? On the contrary, many things in nature only happen at night. If you are never nature journaling at night you are automatically missing half of nature. And between the equinoxes you are missing more than half! For some tips and inspiration check out this video below.

Day 11: Role Reversal in Nature:

I tried to include some prompts like this that allow for your interpretation and creativity. How will you interpret this one? What are some examples of role reversals in nature? What does that even mean to you? Does it say more about how we categorize the world than it does about the world itself? I look forward to seeing your pages when you post them on instagram with the hashtag #inktobernaturejournal. You can also follow me on instagram and tag me.

Day 12: Animal Tracks

Some of you already know that I am really interested in tracking. I got into tracking even before I knew about nature journaling and drawing tracks was one of the main ways that I rekindled my interest in drawing nature. This was the key revelation that resulted in me learning about nature journaling! Drawing tracks is all about seeing and drawing shadows and degrees of shadow. One great ink tool for this is water soluble pen because you can get discrete black spots and lines but you can also create a wash for graded values. I like the Pilot Precise V5 Black Ink:

On this nature journal page you can see an ink drawing of mountain lion tracks and writing describing the track. I used water soluble ink and a pentel brush pen. This is part of the #inktobernaturejournal month long challenge.
You can see where I used the water soluble ink to try to capture the mountain lion tracks in snow from a photo in my tracking book.

These are my preferred water soluble ink pens with black ink. They are what I used in the above drawings. Did you know that I made a book about tracking? You can get a digital version for less than$5. Check it out here.

Day 13: Nature Comic

How do you nature journal an exciting event that you witness? How do you capture that hawk catching a rabbit that you witnessed? There are many tools from the world of comics and graphic story telling that we can adapt to nature journaling. Having some tools and experience will allow you to capture these fascinating and fun moments. I will be interviewing Mark Simmons about this specific topic on October 13th on the Nature Journal Show. Don’t miss it! Subscribe and click the bell under the video in the link to get notifications so you always know when I am going live.

Day 14: Dissection or Cross Section

This is a great way to nature journal at home. It is also a great exercise in visual thinking and communication. The easiest thing to do is take a fruit or vegetable (or mushroom) and sketch it while you cut it up. What are the implications of how you cut it to understanding it? What is the best way to show it? I like using button mushrooms, citrus, tomatoes, cabbage etc. Are you feeling more Leonardo DaVinci? If so, you can apply this type of nature journaling to animals. Level one: nature journal a whole chicken or fish you get from the store as you cut it up. Level two: nature journal a fish you catch, a roadkill animal or a dead bird your cat brings in. Level three: take an anatomy class at your local community college and nature journal during the dissections. nature journal style leonardo davinci

Day 15: Extinct

This one word prompt gives you creative liberty for interpretation. You will probably not be nature journaling from life for this one unless you are looking at fossils or something that is on the verge of extinction. Have fun with this one!


Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Inktober for Nature Journals! (Week One)

It is about time for an Inktober for Nature Journals! This is your opportunity to commit to nature journaling everyday for 31 days! Each day has a prompt that you can see below. Feel free to share. On this page I will post more details about each prompt as the month progresses. Use the hashtag #inktobernaturejournal when you post your pages. Follow my instagram to see my posts because I am doing the challenge too!

inktober nature journal

Inktober for Nature Journal Prompts

Day 1: Gnarly Old Tree.

Charismatic old trees are ideal subjects for ink drawing. Firstly, find one near you or use a photo. There are often good trees to draw even in urban areas, street trees, and parks. This is a good time to test out some new ink tools that you are planning on using this month. Check out this post for a video about inking old trees.

inktober for nature journaling
In this ink sketch I used the Fude De Manen fountain pen by Sailor to draw the light and dark areas of this tree and several birds.
Day 2: Local landscapito with dark darks.

It is easy to have your nature journal pages come out pale. Especially if you use watercolor for landscape paintings. Today, we are going to practice landscapitos (small landscapes) using ink. You can make several thumbnails if you want. Focus on seeing the dark darks. Can you simplify what you see to a few value gradations? This practice will help you later with your landscape paintings. Look how Bill Waterson used dark ink areas to depict this landscape.

A Bill Waterson ink drawing for Calvin and Hobbes showing a landscape with dark darks
There is a lot to learn here about how to use dark areas for the depiction of a landscape

Still struggling putting dark ink on your landscapito? Check out how print maker Tom Killion uses black ink in these landscapes below.

Inktober prompts for nature journalers. Example from a Tom Killion print showing how to use dark darks in a landscape image.
Tom Killion Woodblock Print. Study how he uses dark darks in this landscape and how it makes the piece so much bolder.
Another Tom Killion Print with bright colors and dark darks
Another Tom Killion print showing Point Reyes. Notice where he uses black ink.
Day 3: Messy Sketch Moving Animal.

Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. Especially with moving animals. Most animals we see in nature are going to be moving. However, it is really good practice to try drawing them. Have you ever seen Leonardo Da Vinci’s horse drawings? He has scribbles all over the page. That is what we will try to do today. There is no going back when you use ink 🙂

inktober for nature journal quick sketches of moving animals in ink
The more finished looking drawings are from the still animals. The corndog looking drawings in the middle with the arrows are the messy sketches trying to capture the moving animal. We can learn more from these sketches than polished portraits of frozen animals.
Day 4: The Blackest Flower?

This one gives you some opportunity to do a little research or look in a garden near you. What is the darkest flower that you can find? Are there any truly black flowers? Maybe do some research online or at the library. It is possible to apply nature journaling techniques to these secondary sources. How will you draw a black flower with ink?

A nature journal page for inktober nature journal showing several sketches of black flowers and a bunch of questions and notes about black flowers, whether they exist, what makes the color black etc.
My #inktobernaturejournal page for blackest flower. Notice how much I used writing, question asking etc.
Day 5: Quick Sketch an Invertebrate.

Invertebrates are animals too. However, we often don’t give them as much credit as birds and mammals. Now is your chance to find one and do some quick sketches of it with ink in your nature journal. Invertebrates include anything without a backbone. That means lobsters, butterflies, spiders, earthworms, and coral all count.

Day 6: Draw a Skull With a Story.

Everything in nature has a story. Moreover, the story is the most interesting part for humans. How can you be more intentional about capturing and telling the story on your nature journal pages? Getting better at this can make your pages more fascinating to other people or your future self when you look pack on them. For today’s prompt apply this idea to a skull. If you do not have access to any or can’t find any look for one in a book or do a search online. Make sure you can get some info about it.

Day 7: Something Living in a Corner.

Can you find something living in a corner? What nature journaling techniques can you apply to it? How many questions can you ask about it? And finally, what ink tools will you use?

A nature journal page for inktober prompt something living in a corner. I found some spiders, i think they are daddy long legs. I tried drawing several of them and there is a drawing showing there location as well as notes and questions about them
Including yourself in your drawings can be helpful for showing context and scale.
The second week of inktober is coming soon in another post…
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not


Nature Journaling Australia: LIVE with Paula Peeters

What makes nature journaling in Australia so different from everywhere else? Find out from Paula Peeters, a nature journaler, teacher, writer, scientist, and conservationist from Australia.  In this episode of the Nature Journal Show, Marley interviews Paula about her books, different ways of describing a place, the ideal nature journal outing, resources for Aussie nature journalers, and what makes nature journaling Australia so special.

How do you describe a place?

If you’re Paula Peeters, you use a diversity of different ways to describe a place.  Sometimes she goes for in-depth drawings that focus on details and take time to complete.  Other times, Paula might opt for a cartoon – it’s easier to capture details quickly when you’re cartooning.  Both approaches are very useful, depending on what Paula is after in her nature journaling session.

Paula birds cartoon
Here, Paula uses a cartoon approach so she can capture the diversity of birds she sees quickly. This helps her draw multiple birds and take down more information than if she had focused on getting one perfect in-depth drawing.

A particularly ingenious way of describing the complexity of a place is with a “folding forest” – Paula creates pages with lifting flaps and expanding backgrounds, so you can see what’s going on in the skies above and the earth below a particular ecosystem.  Using such a variety of ways to show information can help deepen your understanding of that place, as well as the nature journaling experience itself.

To help other people engage in the places she cares about, Paula also writes books.  Some are books to help people get outside more, such as Take This Book for a Walk and Make a Date With Nature. Others are coloring books of different habitats and the species living in them – some of which are threatened.  By allowing the reader/colorer to go on an adventure in her books, Paula gives them an emotional investment into the wellbeing of these places.

Paula folding forest
Paula makes flaps that lift so she can choose information to hide and reveal – a playful way of nature journaling as well as interactive for the reader.

What is different about the nature journaling experience in Australia?

Nature journal clubs have been growing all over Australia.  Marley asks Paula why she thinks Australia is nature journaling so much.  Here are three possible factors, according to Paula:

  1. In Australia, you can go outside most of the year.  The winters are not so severe – there is seldom snow, for example.
  2. There is extraordinary nature in Australia.  The trees are largely evergreen – there are over 800 different species of Eucalyptus alone! – and there is a diversity of certain animals you would not be able to find anywhere else in the world.  Paula is quick to point out that there are not huge predatory animals, unlike in North America – though Australia is home to many poisonous and venomous animals!
  3. Related to the last point: there are large parts of Australia that are still unchanged from when the European settlers first came, about 200 years ago.  This means that there might be intact ecosystems and wild spaces, places to explore in an increasingly urbanized world.
Paula tree drawing
In this drawing, Paula takes time to add lots of details such as texture and shadows to make the tree come alive.

Adding to INIWIRMO

One of the core tools in nature journaling is observation, and there is a commonly used three-pronged prompt that can help facilitate that process: “I Notice”, “I Wonder”, and “It Reminds Me Of”, or INIWIRMO for short.  Paula adds one more prompt when she is sharing this activity with her students: “How does it (make me) feel?”  (So would that be INIWIRMOHDIF?)  Anyone can follow these prompts:

  1. First, write down what you notice in the environment around you.  This can be things to do with the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste), or the different species you see, or different behaviors you observe, or other things that are around you.  Caution: try to refrain from making assumptions about what you’re seeing.  You might observe
  2. Next, write down questions that came up for you while you were observing the environment.  You can write down question chains, where one inquiry leads to another, which leads to more.  You don’t have to actually answer any of these questions!  For now, let the curiosity flow.
  3. Then, write down any connections you’ve made.  Perhaps you’re watching an eddy in a river, and it reminds you of water going down the drain in your bathtub – write that down!  Regularly making connections between seemingly unrelated things improves our creativity and changes our thinking.  Plus, by making a comparison of something you see in nature to something that is very familiar to you, you will remember it better, and it might just give you more questions AND more answers!
  4. Finally, write down how you’re feeling about what you’ve been experiencing so far.  When we connect to things personally, we remember them better; so remembering how something personally made us feel then attaches an emotion to that experience.  Paula strongly believes (and we agree!) that nature journaling can promote health and wellness.  And by caring for ourselves in nature, we can also learn to care for nature.

There are so many lessons we can learn from Paula!  Her greatest passion, as a teacher, writer, and scientist, is to connect people with the natural world in as many ways as possible.  We save what we care about; to get people to invest in conservation long-term, we must help each other to experience nature firsthand.  Let’s follow Paula’s example.


To see more of Paula’s work and resources (including her downloadable coloring books!) please visit her website:

Want to see an interview with another Australian nature journaler?  Check out Marley’s interview with Dion Dior here.

There are several nature journaling clubs in Australia!  Check them out:

Nature journaling Australia:

Brisbane Nature Journal Club: and

Noosa & Sunshine Coast Nature Journal Club:

Nature Journal Adventures:

Melbourne Nature Journal Club:

Newcastle Nature Journaling Club:

Gold Coast Nature Journal Group:

Nature Journal Club of Canberra and Queanbeyan:

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not


Best Books for Nature Journaling

What is your favorite nature journaling related book?  Do you use books that don’t have ‘nature journaling’ explicitly in the title?  Join Marley and me for this episode of “The Nature Journal Show” where we share the best books for nature journaling.

The subject of nature journaling is quite the multi-disciplinary one.  Natural history, ecology, art technique, mindset, and many other areas of study combine to make this unique subject.  Which categories are most important, are up to you.  But if you are looking for a place to get started in terms of resources, check out our list below.  We include some of the best books for nature journaling that have many of our fellow journalers going ‘Aaaaah!’*

*A quick note before we begin: Please don’t go out and buy all these books!  Please be selective – not each book will be everyone’s cup of tea.  Check your local library for hardcopies and audiobooks (or befriend a librarian).  Check your child’s school library and have them borrow books for you (hey, worth a shot!).  See if there are nearby nature journalers who might want to share books.  Ask in the online community to see if anyone is getting rid of any nature journal books and is looking for a new home for them.  Who knows, we may even start a traveling book collection or a nature journalers’ library someday!

In addition to listing the books we have also included links to many of them in case you want to buy them. The amazon links are affiliate links so we will get a small percentage if you use the link for a purchase without any extra cost to you. This helps support the Nature Journal Show. Where possible we have included the links to the author’s websites so they get the most benefit from the purchase.

Check out our list by categories:

Best Nature Journaling Specific Books

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren

Keeping a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson

The Curious Nature Guide by Clare Walker Leslie

A Life In Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal by Hannah Hinchman

Best Natural History and Ecology books for Nature Journalers

The Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson a great book about the evolution of biodiversity from one of the foremost naturalists and biologists of today.

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss, both by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Roadside Geology of Northern California

A Tracking Companion by Marley Peifer

When You Are Lost by Joy Colangelo

The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann

Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel

How to Identify Plants by H.D. Harrington

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

The Total Skywatcher’s Manual

Secrets of the Oak Woodlands by Kate Marianchild

Best Field Guides for Nature Journalers

What it’s Like to be a Bird by David Allen Sibley. An amazing new look into bird’s lives

Sibley Birds East by David Allen Sibley

Sibley Birds West by David Allen Sibley

Reptiles of the Galapagos

Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals

The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws

Mammals of the San Francisco Bay Region by William D. and Elizabeth Berry

The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Other Nature Art Forms

California’s Wild Edge by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder. A beautiful collection of landscape prints, poems, and history of California’s coast.

Also by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion:  The High Sierra of California

Planet Ocean, Dancing to the Fossil Record by Ray Troll. Beautiful illustrations and stories about paleontology and fossils. A fun read and amazing pastel art work.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Frontiers of Enchantment: An Artist’s Adventures in Africa

Best Art Technique and Sketching Books for Nature Journalers

Rosalie Haizlett’s new book: Watercolor in Nature (coming November 2)

Cyclopedia Anatomicae: More Than 1,500 Illustrations of the Human and Animal Figure for the Artist

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Dibujar la Naturaleza by Juan M. Varela Simó. One of the best books about nature sketching in Spanish. Many examples of nature journal type approaches.

Alaskan Field Sketches by William D Berry

Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel

Making Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

The Restless Kingdom: An Exploration of Animal Movement

Drawing Ideas by Mark Baskinger and William Bardel

Artist’s Sketchbook by Cathy Johnson

The Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature by Cathy Johnson

Painting Nature’s Details in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson

Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender

The Complete Book of Textures for Artists by Steven Pearce, Denise J. Howard, and Mia Tavonatti

Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger

Drawing Birds by John Busby

The Field Guide to Drawing & Sketching Animals by Tim Pond

The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals

How to Draw Animals, Jack Hamm

The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hultgren

Bird Anatomy for Artists by Natalia Balo

Capturing the Essence Techniques for Bird Artists by William T. Cooper

Art of Field Sketching by Clare Walker Leslie

Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson

Drawing and Painting from Nature by Cathy Johnson

Educational Coloring Books (which you can also use for line work inspiration)

The Botany Coloring Book

The Marine Biology Coloring Book by Thomas M. Niesen

A Field Guide to Butterflies Coloring Book by Roger Tory Peterson et al

National Parks Coloring Book by Peter F. Copeland

State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard

Mindset and Motivation

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Nature Poetry

The Home Place by Dr J Drew Lanham

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Please add your own best books for nature journaling to the comments below!  Happy Reading!

How to Draw Old Trees

Right now, I’m going to show you how to draw old trees. Do you remember seeing this tree in my last nature journal in the rain video? Drawing old trees is fun. Especially if you use the crazy ink technique I am about to show you…

How to Draw Old Trees

  • First, find a charismatic old tree that you like.
  • Second, make sure there is a spot the is comfortable to sit. Ideally, find a spot in the shade so your eyes don’t get blasted.
  • Third, choose a drawing approach. I used the stick drawing dip pen technique.
  • Next, give yourself a reasonable goal and stick to it.
  • Take a snack break and walk around to stretch your legs.
  • Push through any self doubt that comes up and stick to your plan.
  • Review your work objectively at the end and remember that quantity is more important than quality.

The stick technique for drawing old trees

Want to try a fun new way of drawing? I did this because I wanted to draw the tree using a stick from the very same tree! This is also probably one of the cheapest art supplies you will ever get. All you need is a container of black ink. I used this sumi ink.

  • First find and carve a stick. I like them if they are not fully dead and about as thick as a pencil. Then I carve a point that is somewhere between a spatula tip and a pencil tip.
  • Second, make sure you have a rag to wipe off the excess ink. This can be a messy process.
  • Lastly, start dipping your pen in the ink and drawing!
  • Try experimenting with different amounts of ink on the stick and using different edges of the piece to make different marks.
Feeling too nervous about this method of drawing trees?

If you are feeling too nervous about this imprecise method in your nature journal then that is probably a good sign that this technique is good for you. Many of us have perfectionist tendencies and hesitancy around mark making that inhibit our art. This manifests itself in drawing less, it also manifests itself in tentative brushstrokes and lines. By practicing with a tool that gives you less control you can train yourself against these negative tendencies. For more work on your mindset check out this post.

Want more nature journaling ideas for old trees?

Above you can see the other video I did on how to nature journal old trees. It was a different tree, a much colder day and I showed you several approaches. In this video I use more of a traditional nature journaling approach including watercolor, zoom in zoom out and more.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not